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One of the Toughest Acts of Worship

There is a phenomenon that is:

  • one of most important acts of worship in the life of a Muslim;
  • one of the most overlooked and neglected as well; and unquestionably
  • one of the toughest acts of worship out there, one that demands immense training and perseverance until one’s heart is positioned in its domain.

That phenomenon is al-Khushū’ lillāh; humility before Allāh.

This isn’t necessarily something you physically do, nor is it limited to Salāh, but an inward state that envelops your heart around the clock. It is to walk the earth whilst truly feeling in need of Allāh, that you’re helpless without His assistance and paralysed without His aid. It is when you raise your head from prostration only to realise that your heart is still prostrating. It is to buy, sell, converse and socialise with others, whilst your heart quietly calls out,

“O Allāh, do not leave me to my own devises, I am at your mercy.”

“O Allāh, pardon my shortcomings, You see what others don’t see.”

“O Allāh, I have not worshipped You as You deserve to be worshipped.”

Have you felt this before? Or has your life with Allāh become reduced to soulless chores of robotic movements?

Allāh said:

أَلَمْ يَأْنِ لِلَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا أَنْ تَخْشَعَ قُلُوبُهُمْ لِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَمَا نَزَلَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ

“Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of Allāh and what has come down of the truth?”[1]

Honestly, after reading that, did it affect you? If not a great deal, then I draw your attention to just how hard this āyah fell on the ears of the companions.

As for Ibn Mas’ūd, he said:

مَا كَانَ بَيْنَ إِسْلَامِنَا وَبَيْنَ أَنْ عَاتَبَنَا اللَّهُ بِهَذِهِ الْآيَةِ إِلَّا أَرْبَعُ سِنِينَ

“The time between our embracing of Islām and when Allāh reproached us through this āyah was only four years.”[2]

As for Ibn ‘Umar, when he would recite this āyah, he would cry until his tears would soak his beard, and would say:

بلى يا رب، بلى يا رب

“Yes, O my Lord, yes [the time has come].”[3]

As for Ibn ‘Abbās, he said:

إن الله استبطأ قلوب المؤمنين

“Allāh saw that the hearts of the believers were slow towards Him.”[4]

It truly is amazing that the companions would say such things about themselves, considering that they are the ones who, according to the Qur’ān itself, are “not distracted by trade or sale from the remembrance of Allāh and performance of prayer and giving of Zakāh. They fear a Day in which the hearts and eyes will turn;”[5] and those who were “true to what they had promised Allāh;”[6] yet Allāh reproached them for hearts that could have done better. This is nothing but an indication of just how enormous Allāh’s right is for our hearts’ Khushū’.

(a) But what is Khushū’?

From a linguistic perspective, it is in reference to:

الانخفاض والذل والسكون

“A state of humility, lowliness and stillness.”[7]

To make this meaning a little clearer, let us take look at the Qur’ān and see how Allāh uses this word in the Qur’ān. Allāh said:

وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنَّكَ تَرَى الْأَرْضَ خَاشِعَةً فَإِذَا أَنْزَلْنَا عَلَيْهَا الْمَاءَ اهْتَزَّتْ وَرَبَتْ

“And among His signs is this, that you see the earth still, lowly, but when We send down on it the water, it is stirred to life and vegetation grows.”[8]

The Arabic word used for “still, lowly” is “khāshi’atan”.

When speaking about the Day of Judgement, Allāh said:

وَخَشَعَتِ الْأَصْوَاتُ لِلرَّحْمَنِ فَلَا تَسْمَعُ إِلَّا هَمْسًا

“And all voices will be humbled, low before Allāh and you shall hear nothing but whisperings.”[9]

The Arabic word used for “humbled, low” is the verb “khasha’at”.

So, what is the technical definition of that khushū which Allāh wants from us?

Ibn Rajab said:

هو انكساره لله، وخضوعه، وسكونه عن التفاته إلى غير من هو بين يديه، فإذا خشع القلب خشعت الجوارح كلها تبعا لخشوعه

“The khushū’ of one’s heart is a state where it breaks and humbles for Allāh and remains fixed from turning to other than Allāh as you stand before Him. Thus, when the heart experiences khushū’, the effects of it appear on the limbs.”[10]

(b) What practical examples do we have from the life of the people of khushū’?

Ponder over the words of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) in praise of Allāh in his bowing in prayer,

اللهم لك ركعت، وبك آمنت، ولك أسلمت. خشع لك سمعي، وبصري، ومخي، وعظمي، وعصبي

“O Allāh to You I bow, in you I believe and to You I surrender. My hearing, my sight, my brain, my bones and my nerves have all been humbled to you.”[11]

Al-Hasan al-Basri said, describing the companions of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and their perpetual state of khushū’:

وكنتُ والله إذا رأيتُهم رأيتُ قوماً كأنهم رأى عين  —يعني: للجنة والنار— فوالله ما كانوا بأهل جدل ولا باطل، ولا اطمأنوا إلا إلى كتاب الله، ولا أظهروا ما ليس في قلوبهم

“Looking at them was like looking at people who could see paradise and hell before their very eyes. By Allāh, they were not people of argumentation or falsehood, nor did they find comfort in anything but the book of Allāh, nor would they show that which was not in their hearts.”[12]

‘Abdullah b. ‘Umar once recited Sūrat al-Mutaffifīn, until he reached the āyah:

يَوْمَ يَقُومُ النَّاسُ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

“On the Day when people will stand for The Lord of the Worlds.”[13]

He cried until he collapsed and was unable to resume his recitation.[14]

Masrūq said:

قال لي رجل من أهل مكة: هذا مقام أخيك تميم الداري صلى ليلة حتى أصبح أو كاد يقرأ آية، يرددها ويبكي: أَمْ حَسِبَ الَّذِينَ اجْتَرَحُوا السَّيِّئَاتِ أَنْ نَجْعَلَهُمْ كَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ سَوَاءً مَحْيَاهُمْ وَمَمَاتُهُمْ سَاءَ مَا يَحْكُمُون

“A man from Makkah said to me: ‘This is the spot where your brother, Tamīm al-Dāri, stood in prayer from the night until the morning as he recited and repeated one āyah: “Do those who commit sins think that We shall make them like those who believe and do good works, the same in life and death? Bad is their judgment.”[15]’”[16]

Thābit al-Bunāni visited a doctor regarding pain in his eye which he was experiencing. The doctor said to him:

اضمن لي خصلة تبرأ عينك

“If you promise me to do just one thing, your eye will get better.” He replied: “What’s that?” He said: “Don’t cry”

Thaabit said:

وما خير في عين لا تبكي؟

“What good is there in an eye that doesn’t weep?”[17]

(c) What is it that makes this act of ‘ibāda – khushū’ – so precious?

1. It is one of the widest doors to Allāh’s pleasure

Despite this state being the core of worship and its very essence, and despite it being one of the widest and quickest of doors to Allāh’s pleasure, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the majority of us are yet to experience it.

Consider the words of Imām Ibn al-Qayyim who said,

دخلت على الله من أبواب الطاعات كلها ، فما دخلت من باب إلا رأيت عليه الزحام فلم أتمكن من الدخول

“I have tried drawing closer to Allāh by entering every possible door of worship, but every time I came close to a door, I found that it was congested with people and so I was unable to enter…”

In other words, the popular acts of worship like prayer, fasting, charity, da’wah, Qur’ān and their like are practiced by so many, alhamdulillāh, so it is hard to compete with people in that regards. He continues:

حتى جئت باب الذل والافتقار ، فإذا هو أقرب باب إليه وأوسعه ، ولا مزاحم فيه ولا معوق ، فما هو إلا أن وضعت قدمي في عتبته ، فإذا هو سبحانه قد أخذ بيدي وأدخلني عليه

“… until I approached the door of humility and bankruptcy to Allāh, where I found that it was in fact the quickest and widest of all doors to Allāh, but to my surprise, I realised that there wasn’t any congestion at it nor were there any barriers. I placed my foot inside and at once, I was taken by the hand and allowed to walk inside.”

The outward worship is on point in many of our lives, but the state of desperation, humility, inner poverty and genuine need of The King is, according to Ibn al-Qayyim, the missing jigsaw piece in the lives of the masses, the piece that makes all the difference.

2. It causes your good deeds to grow in size

Al-Khushū’ truly is a miracle growth hormone which, whenever added to any good deed, amplifies it in size and goodness. Your two units of prayer, if performed with Khushū’, are many times dearer to Allāh than my entire night’s worth of prayer if mine is without Khushū’. Yes, it is a shortcut, and bearing in mind just how short your life is, you need this shortcut.

Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyya said, speaking about Sūrat al-Ikhlās, “Qul huwa Allāhu ahad”, and how the reciting of it equates to one third of the Qur’ān:

“إن هذه السورة مع ما فيها من الثواب والأجر، والمنزلة إلا أن العبد قد يقرأ آية سواها، ويخشع فيها، فيكون ذلك أعظم من قراءته هذه السورة، بل يقول: “إن العبد قد يقول: سبحان الله، والحمد لله، ولا إله إلا الله، والله أكبر، مع حضور القلب واتصافه بمعانيها فيكون ذلك أفضل في حقه من قراءة سورة “قل هو الله أحد” مع الجهل والغفلة”

“Despite the immense reward in the recitation of this Sūrah and the lofty status that it occupies, nevertheless, should one recite any other Ayah with Khushū’, the subsequent reward for that would be greater than the recitation of Sūrah al-Ikhlās.” He also says: “In fact, one may say SubhānAllāh, Alhamdulillaah, Lā ilāha ila Allāh, and Allāhu Akbar with an attentive heart, having lived in their meanings, and the subsequent reward would be greater than the recitation of Sūrat al-Ikhlās with heedlessness or not understanding.”[18]

3. It expels the whisperings of Shaytān

Have his whisperings reached unmanageable levels in your life? If so, then take it as a rule; the whisperings of Shaytān and Khushū’ can never coexist in any one heart.

The scholars have said:

من خشع قلبه لم يقرب منه الشيطان

“Whoever’s heart is in a state of Khushū’, Shaytān cannot approach it.”[19]

(d) Lastly, how then is this wonder of an act of worship to be attained?

1. By knowing Him

If you feel that your relationship with Allāh (subhānahu wa ta’ālā) is a cold one, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s because you are a bad person. The reason may be far simpler. It may be because you are yet to know Him.

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim said:

من عرف الله أحبه ولا بد

“Whoever knows Allāh has to love Allāh.”[20]

Make a conscious effort to rediscover The One whom you claim you worship through the Qur’ān, through the study of his names and attributes, and watch how the Khushū’ within you that had been asleep will slowly begin to reawaken.

2. By thinking about Him

Allāh said:

أَوَلَمْ يَنْظُرُوا فِي مَلَكُوتِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا خَلَقَ اللَّهُ مِنْ شَيْءٍ

“Do they not look in the dominion of the heavens and the earth and all things that Allāh has created…”[21]

Allāh said:

قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَعِظُكُمْ بِوَاحِدَةٍ أَنْ تَقُومُوا لِلَّهِ مَثْنَى وَفُرَادَى ثُمَّ تَتَفَكَّرُوا

“Say: ‘I exhort you to one (thing) only: that you stand up for Allāh’s sake in pairs and singly, and then to think …”[22]

This universe is an enormous Masjid built for your contemplation. When Umm al-Dardā was asked “which act of worship did you see your husband, Abū Dardā, engaging in the most?”, she replied: التفكر والإعتبار, “Contemplation and deep thought.”

3. By freeing up some space for Khushū’

We have already established that al-Khushū’ is not an action of the outer, but one of the heart, and with this we understand why, for many of us, it’s so difficult to attain; because we haven’t left any space for it. There’s only so much that the human heart can house, and if you’ve filled it with sins, songs, distractions, addictions and perversions, then how will Khushū’ find its place when it’s constantly being evicted? Each and every one of us knows exactly where to start and what inner items need unloading.

4 By begging Allāh for it

The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would say in his Du’ā:

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ الْعَجْزِ وَالْكَسَلِ، وَالْجُبْنِ وَالْبُخْلِ،وَالْهَرَمِ،وَعَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ،اللَّهُمَّ آتِ نَفْسِي تَقْوَاهَا،وَزَكِّهَا أَنْتَ خَيْرُ مَنْ زَكَّاهَا، أَنْتَ وَلِيُّهَا وَمَوْلَاهَا، اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ عِلْمٍ لَا يَنْفَعُ، وَمِنْ قَلْبٍ لَا يَخْشَعُ، وَمِنْ نَفْسٍ لَا تَشْبَعُ، وَمِنْ دَعْوَةٍ لَا يُسْتَجَابُ لَهَا

“O Allāh, I seek refuge in You from incapacity, laziness, stinginess, cowardice, senility, and the torment of the grave. O Allāh, make my soul obedient and purify it, for You are the best One to purify it, You are its Guardian and Lord. O Allāh, I seek refuge in You from knowledge that doesn’t benefit, and a heart that has no Khushū’, and a soul that is not satisfied, and a Du’ā that is not answered.”[23]

Honestly, it’s not all about appearances, eloquent sermons and carefully crafted Islamic posts, but it’s about that secret relationship that exists between you and Allāh which nobody else sees. A single atom’s worth of this quality is dearer to Allāh than mountains worth of deeds that are machinelike.

How close is the mercy of Allāh to the people of Khushū’, and how near is their relief?

Source: www.islam21c.com


[1] Al-Qur’ān, 57:16

[2] Muslim

[3] AdDurril Manthoor fit Tafseeri bil Ma’thoor

[4] Tafseer Ibnu Katheer

[5] Al-Qur’ān, 24:37

[6] Al-Qur’ān, 33:23

[7] Madaarijus Saalikeen

[8] Al-Qur’ān, 41:39

[9] Al-Qur’ān, 20:108

[10] Fathul Baari

[11] AtTirmidhi, on the authority of ‘Ali

[12] Qiyaamul Layl, Muhammad Ibnu Nasr Al-Marwazi

[13] Al-Qur’ān, 83:6

[14] Az-Zuhd, Wakee’ Ibnul Jarraah

[15] Al-Qur’ān, 45:21

[16] ArRiqqatul wal Bukaa, Ibnu Abid Dunya

[17] Thammul Hawaa, Ibnul Jawzi

[18] Majmoo’ul Fataawaa

[19] Madaarijus Saalikeen, Ibnul Qayyim

[20] Tareequl Hijratain, Ibnul Qayyim

[21] Al-Qur’ān, 7:185

[22] Al-Qur’ān 34:46

[23] Muslim, on the authority of Zayd Ibnu Arqam

About Shaykh Ali Hammuda

Shaykh Ali Ihsan Hammuda is a UK national of Palestinian origin. He gained bachelors and masters’ degrees in Architecture & Planning from the University of the West of England, before achieving a BA in Shari'ah from al-Azhar University in Egypt. He is currently based in Wales and is a visiting Imām at Al-Manar Centre in Cardiff, and also a senior researcher and lecturer for the Muslim Research & Development Foundation in London. Ustādh Ali is the author of several books including 'The Daily Revivals' and 'The Ten Lanterns", and continues to deliver sermons, lectures and regular classes across the country.

One comment

  1. Lamin Kanuteh

    I always read your articles at the right time, may Allah grant you and the entire muslim ummah the best in both worlds

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